Ten thousand stories (and then some) at the TC 10K

It was a bittersweet finish for Victoria’s Chris Rudram, who crossed the TC 10K finish line in a tuxedo and without shoes.

The barefoot runner completed the race for his father, David, who died in January from a blood disease called amyloidosis.

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“I’m doing it for him,” Rudram said.

Rudram was one of 12,288 runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes who registered to participate in the 24th annual race day Sunday, including 962 who registered to undertake the Thrifty Foods 1.5K Family Run. The total number of finishers was 10,743, the second-highest total in the 24-year history of the event.

The races temporarily blocked traffic downtown. But it went off without any major problems or surprises, according to race spokeswoman Louise Hodgson-Jones, thanks to 750 volunteers, as well as 60 regular Victoria police, reserve and auxiliary officers.

And while Rudram raised money for the hematology research unit at the Vancouver General Hospital, others had different goals on the crisp and sunny morning.

“Finishing together was ours,” said Rick Stark, who crossed the line at 1:01:51 with his 13-year-old son, Michael: check. Mayor Dean Fortin said he hoped to finish without hurting himself: check. And the 136-member Pearson College team wanted to be the largest team: check (Sole Sisters Victoria was only one participant behind).

Races are typically places for individual achievement, but there were several team efforts at the TC 10K.

A flurry of excitement accompanied Paralympian and Parksville-Qualicum Liberal candidate Michelle Stilwell across the finish line alongside World Cup paracyclist Simon Harrington. The friends led the competitive wheelchair competition with a shared time of 32:52.

Stilwell said they made the decision to work together before the race began at 8 a.m.

“Going in this morning, we looked at the balloons blowing, the flags blowing and we thought: ‘We’re going to need each other out there,’ ” she said. “It’s important, when you work together like that, that you share the victory in the end.”

Some who couldn’t run the race on their own found it possible with a push from friends — like Karen Deegan, 23, whose severe disabilities keep her in a wheelchair. Deegan wanted to cross the finish line in under one hour, pushed by friend Daniel Kilpatrick. They finished in 55:19.

Ethiopia’s Marta Tizazu, 18, went blind at age four through complications related to measles. But she walked without her white cane Sunday, alongside friends from Pearson College.

Nurse Heather Wistlie from Glenn Warren Lodge nursing home said her team of 10 were running for those who couldn’t.

“I work with a lot of people who are in wheelchairs and I’m running for all of them today,” she said.

The TC 10K was also an ageless event: Participants ranged from babies in strollers to Hans Sandberg, 92 — the eldest of the pack. Sandberg finished the race in 1:35:47.

Some inevitably felt sick after the physical exertion, but not Sandberg.

“Wonderful! I feel great,” he said. “I started at the age of 80 so I’ve made 12 runs already.”

Perhaps lacking his wisdom, some of his juniors were less pleased with their results. Despite a remarkable time of 41:07 — just 11 minutes behind race leader Paul Kumugul of Kenya — 11-year-old Logan Kits said he didn’t do as well as he’d liked.

Others took it in stride. Barb Brett, 71, is the kind of woman who puts her arm around your shoulder when she talks to you, even if you’re a stranger. She has run at least 10 TC 10Ks and 20 Vancouver Sun Runs, and finished Sunday’s event in 1:14:57.

“I wanted to be under 80 minutes, so I’m really happy,” said Brett, who recently underwent surgery. “I’ve had a couple of setbacks lately so this was really good ... I think it’s the best day ever.”

asmart@timescolonist.com

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